I have been hearing a lot about Second Life lately. Basically, it’s a virtual world where you can be anyone and do anything you want. You can buy land, build a home, open a business, design clothing, hair styles, jewelery, vehicles, and all kinds of other things. It’s becoming quite a phenomenon because its Linden dollar currency (L$) has an actual exchange rate with US dollars, so tons of real money is getting converted into virtual money to be spent in the game. Not only that, but if you make money by creating goods or providing services in the game, you can exchange your Linden dollars back into US dollars. I heard an interview on the radio with a guy who was making USD $8000/month for a few months making animations for the avatars that represent people in the game. Other people are making good money from selling houses and fancy clothing.
I decided to give it a try. It’s pretty overwhelming at first. There’s a walk-through to get you used to some of the controls, and to teach you to modify how your avatar looks and dresses. It also teaches you some of the basics of building and manipulating objects. They give you a bit of money to start you out too.
I found that I wasn’t comfortable unless my avatar sort of looked like me. Well, kind of like me but slightly taller. Better looking too. He also has cooler clothes. Ok. So maybe he doesn’t look like me. After a while, I started wanting to find some way of making money. I experimented with “camping chairs” in the casinos. Basically they pay you about $2 every 15 minutes to sit in these chairs, surrounded by casino machines. I guess they hope you’ll spend more than that gambling because you’re bored sitting in these chairs. It worked for me. Even though I only sat in the camping chairs while I had other work to do on the computer and could just let SL run minimized in the background, I found myself going back to stare at it. Eventually the lure of the slot machines would get to me. The camping chairs turned out to be money losers for me.
I also had a short-lived career as a dancer. Dance clubs will pay about the same as camping chairs for you to dance in their club. I guess this gets people to come to the club and play their gambling machines too. I gave up on the dancing pretty quickly though, mainly because it’s not fun. Well, it’s more fun than camping chairs, but you would expect camping chairs to be boring. It’s just that it’s unexpectedly boring to sit there and watch yourself dancing. There’s a wide gulf between expected and unexpected boredom.
This left me with turning to my only talent for generating revenue: photography. You can actually be a photographer in the game, taking pictures of other people, and Photoshopping them to perfection, just like in real life. You can buy lighting equipment and backdrops, and special poses for your subjects. This didn’t seem to appealing to me though. Although it’s called photography in the game, it just isn’t. I decided instead to sell some of my real photographs in the game. I spent some time figuring out how to upload my photos, create some photo frames, and stick the photos onto the frames. Then I wrote a little script to attach to the frame so that when people clicked on it, they’d get a note with information about the photo and a link to my website. Might as well get some advertising too.
I found a little gallery owned by a guy whose SL name is Esch Snoats. That’s him in the crazy pants. His rent was very reasonable… L$8 per month per photo, and he takes no commissions. I wish real galleries were that generous. He was also very helpful in making space for my photos on the wall. The picture in the middle shows “me” standing beside the three photos I’ve uploaded so far.
Anyway, the game is quite interesting. There’s no real point to it, but it’s still fun to wander around, checking out some of the amazing things people have created. I don’t think there’s any danger of it replacing my real life, because I like my real life quite a lot. However, I can see that some people would find it easy to become immersed in Second Life and not want to come out.